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  • Writer's pictureEaston Gaines, MSEd, PsyD

How to be Less Judgmental (Of Other People – and Yourself)

In the hustle and bustle of our daily lives, it's all too common to slip into the habit of passing judgment – on others and ourselves. In this exploration, we'll journey through the transformative realm of mindfulness, diving into the intricacies of discernment versus judgment, the pitfalls of judgment, and actionable steps to break free from this cycle. Let's embark on a path towards heightened compassion and self-awareness.

The difference between a weed and a flower is judgment.

Mindfulness and Identification: Mindfulness plays a pivotal role in recognizing moments of judgment. By bringing a keen awareness to our thoughts and feelings, we empower ourselves to catch the judgments as they arise, marking the initial step towards breaking free from this habitual pattern.

Discernment vs. Judgment: A key focus lies in understanding the nuanced difference between discernment and judgment. I advocate for a more delicate approach – envisioning a "dimmer switch" for our open-heartedness. This subtle shift allows us to navigate a spectrum of vulnerability without succumbing to either extreme.

The Allure of Judgment: Judgment can act as a sugar high -- it offers immediate gratification but comes with detrimental consequences. Making judgments about others or oneself may provide a momentary sense of superiority or self-righteousness, leading to a fleeting feeling of satisfaction. Similarly, the immediate satisfaction derived from passing judgment is temporary and may be followed by feelings of guilt, remorse, or negative consequences. Making judgments can sometimes serve as a defense mechanism to avoid addressing one's insecurities or unresolved emotions, providing a momentary distraction. Immediate feelings of superiority or self-righteousness can obscure the potential harm caused by passing judgment, including strained relationships, a negative impact on mental well-being, and perpetuating a cycle of negativity. Similarly, the need for validation through passing judgment can create a cycle where individuals seek out opportunities to judge others or themselves repeatedly, seeking that momentary sense of satisfaction.

We must work to unravel the facade of superiority, revealing the concealed suffering and disempowerment perpetuated by judgment.

The Four Questions to Ask: During moments of judgment, four vital questions can serve as guideposts back to a compassionate mindset:

  1. Is my heart open or closed?

  2. Am I suffering or am I free?

  3. Am I feeling empowered or disempowered?

  4. Am I feeling connected or disconnected?

Operationalizing "Am I suffering right now?": This question can be a potent tool for self-reflection. This simple inquiry prompts us to pause, delve into our emotions, and investigate the root causes of our suffering. Embracing this practice aligns seamlessly with the core teachings of the Buddha, centered around comprehending and alleviating suffering.

Noticing Your Inner Critic:

  • Is my heart open or closed?

  • Am I feeling stressed or at ease?

  • Can I sit with my emotions and thoughts?

Owning Up to Being a Jerk: By bravely acknowledging our moments of judgment and taking ownership, we can move forward freely. By embracing our imperfections, we lay the groundwork for personal growth and improved relationships. This humility forms an integral part of fostering genuine connection and compassion.

Through exploring discernment, comprehending the allure of judgment, and embracing key questions, we can metamorphose judgmental tendencies into opportunities for compassion. The journey toward an open heart and a judgment-free existence is a continuous process, leading us toward a richer and more fulfilling life.

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